Weekly Legal Updates (23 July to 29 July 2023)

Weekly Legal Updates main objective is to update the legal knowledge of law students, lawyers, academicians and other professionals. If we do not update our legal knowledge regularly, our knowledge become redundant.

Israel Parliament passes law that curbs powers of Supreme Court despite protests

Amid widespread protests, Israeli MPs on Monday successfully passed a highly contentious bill that reportedly curbs the power of the Supreme Court in the country, the BBC reported.

This newly enacted law strips the Supreme Court of its authority to overturn government actions deemed unreasonable. It marks the initial step in a contentious series of reforms designed to restrict the courts’ influence.

The proposed reforms have sparked some of the largest demonstrations in Israel’s history, as critics argue they pose a threat to the country’s democratic foundation.

The third and final vote on the bill, on contested changes sought by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, passed 64-0 after a volatile session. The opposition, however, boycotted it and stormed out of the chamber after chanting ‘shame’.

Despite multiple last-minute efforts in the Knesset to amend the bill or find a procedural compromise with the opposition, all attempts failed.

The parliamentary vote came after nearly 30 hours of continuous floor debate, which saw both supporters and opponents of limiting judicial oversight on political power taking to the streets in massive protests.

According to the law’s provisions, the courts are now barred from scrutinising the “reasonableness” of cabinet and minister decisions, including appointments and the choice to refrain from exercising vested authorities, The Times of Israel newspaper reported.

Throughout the protests, demonstrators have been urging the government to abandon its contentious judicial overhaul plan, expressing concerns that it will undermine the courts’ ability to oversee decisions made by the executive and legislative branches.

(Courtesy:- India Today, 24 July 2023)

In bail orders, courts should consider prisoners’ ability to pay: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court was dealing with a report that revealed that as of January this year, 5,380 prisoners were granted bail but were still in jail.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday told trial courts to consider the financial status of prisoners while setting bail conditions after finding instances where individuals were unable to post bail due to their financial circumstances, leading to extended periods of incarceration.

“We believe that every endeavour must be made by courts that when they grant bail, it must be fruitful as the imposition of bail conditions that are beyond the economic condition of the prisoner does not serve any purpose. It leads to a situation where a prisoner is not able to be released on bail,” said a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia in a case where the top court is considering steps to reform the policy on bail.

On Tuesday, the court was dealing with a report prepared by amicus curiae Gaurav Agarwal that revealed that as of January this year, 5,380 prisoners were granted bail but were still in jail. Their cases were taken up by the state legal services authorities (SLSA) which linked their continued incarceration to their inability to furnish bail bonds stipulated by the courts.

The SLSAs informed the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) that applications for modification of bail conditions were subsequently moved before the respective courts and 4,215 prisoners were released on bail by July 21. The remaining 1,165 prisoners could not be released as they stood convicted in multiple cases where they had not applied for bail.

Agarwal held consultations with NALSA member secretary Santosh Snehi Mann and came up with three suggestions, one of which was to consider orienting the judicial officers in trial courts not to impose hefty bail bonds which are beyond the reach of the prisoners. In this regard, it also recommended preparing a module for orientation programmes in association with state judicial academies to sensitise judges.

The amicus report suggested monitoring the release of accused who are granted bail. The bench found this suggestion to be helpful and proposed the development of an educational module for judicial officers. However, the judges noted from their experience that training alone may not be enough.

“There are different aspects to this problem. Certainly, there has been an impact but not to the extent we thought,” the bench added.

Agarwal informed the court that under the e-prisons software introduced by the central government and operated by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), there is an automatic e-mail alert sent to the secretary of the district legal service authority (DLSA) if the accused remains in jail beyond a week after being released on bail.

Agarwal’s note said, “With the software developed by NIC, it is now easy for the jail authorities and secretary, DLSA to identify undertrials who have not been released even after grant of bail and take remedial measures.”

The Court allowed NALSA to monitor the e-prisons software for email alerts for the next 3-4 months and report difficulties, if any, and suggest improvements.

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 25 July 2023)

Supreme Court pulls up Centre for not taking a stand on pesticide ban issue

The court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a ban on pesticides that are found harmful to the health of children.

Coming down heavily on the Central Government for its inability to explain why only three pesticides were banned when a committee had recommended 27, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it seemed the government was only forming committees until it gets a favorable response.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said, “We want to know why the Centre has appointed committee after committee even though they asked for a ban on 27 pesticides. You kept appointing them till you got a favorable report?”

Additional Solicitor General Vikramjeet Banerjee told the bench that he needed time to take the necessary instructions and would inform the bench accordingly.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner in the case, told the bench, “Only 3 pesticides have been banned out of the 27 pesticides recommended. Those 3 are the ones which are not in use anyway.”

To this, the ASG responded, “18 pesticides were to be continued, 27 pesticides to be continued but to be reviewed. We are still under consideration. Now, Dr. SK Khurana committee is considering this.”

This submission led CJI to say, “We want to know what process was followed because what we can now know is that the government keeps on making committee after committee because it is not getting favorable recommendations. So, we want to know when this will be resolved.”

The bench slated the hearing for next Tuesday.

The court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a ban on pesticides that are found harmful to the health of children.

The Centre came out with a draft order banning 27 pesticides on May 14, 2020.

(Courtesy:- India Today, 25 July 2023)

Pak Supreme Court rejects Imran Khan’s plea to stay criminal proceedings against him in Toshakhana case

In a jolt to Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the ousted prime minister’s plea to stay the criminal proceedings against him in the Toshakhana corruption case.

The case pertains to the allegations that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party chief had “deliberately concealed” details of the gifts he retained from the Toshakhana — a repository where presents handed to government officials from foreign officials are kept — during his time as the prime minister and proceeds from their reported sales.

Khan is accused of misusing his 2018 to 2022 premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth more than Rs 140 million (USD 635,000).

Khan, 70, had approached the apex court after being denied relief in the case by the Islamabad High Court (IHC), the Geo News channel reported.

The Election Commission of Pakistan on October 21 last year, disqualified the former prime minister in the Toshakhana case for making “false statements and incorrect declaration”.

In May, a trial court rejected Khan’s petition challenging the maintainability of the case and indicted the PTI chief, who denied all the allegations of misdeclaration of gifts.

Subsequently, Khan challenged the trial court’s decision before the IHC, which sent the case back to the trial court for re-examination. On July 8, the trial court concluded that the ECP’s petition is maintainable and proceeded further against the former premier who then approached the apex court for relief.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Justice Yahya Afridi of the two-member bench remarked that the apex court will not interfere in the trial court’s matters in the Toshakhana corruption case.

However, it urged the IHC to decide three of Khan’s pending petitions challenging the court’s decision to return the matter to the trial court after his lawyer Khawaja Haris informed the bench that there are multiple petitions — related to the jurisdiction of the trial court and transfer of the Toshakhana case — pending in the high court, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.

Khan is facing more than 140 cases across the country and faces charges like terrorism, violence, blasphemy, corruption and murder since he was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.

(Courtesy:- The Tribune, 26 July 2023)

Supreme Court allows ED chief Sanjay Kumar Mishra to continue till Sep 15 in ‘larger public interest’

In a relief to the Union government, the Supreme Court on Thursday allowed Enforcement Directorate (ED) chief Sanjay Kumar Mishra to continue till September 15 in “larger public interest”. Pronouncing the verdict on the Centre’s plea to let Sanjay Kumar Mishra continue as ED director till October 15 instead of the court-mandated deadline of July 31, the apex court said there won’t be any further extension and that Mishra shall cease to occupy the post from midnight of September 15-16.

The government argued that Mishra’s continuation was “essential” for a positive review by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that will grade India on its laws being compliant with the international protocols on tackling money laundering and financial terrorism.

During the hearing, Justice BR Gavai asked the government whether it was not giving the picture that “your entire department is incompetent? That you cannot function without one person?”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said no one is indispensable but added that the continuity would help the country as the review.

“This is not an annual exercise that someone can take over. This was last done in 2010. Then in 2019, it couldn’t happen because of Covid. The continuity would help the country,” Mehta told the court.

The lawyers representing the government submitted that Mishra’s removal as ED director “will lead to reputation damage” and “will negatively affect the country’s image”.

Earlier this month, the Justice Gavai-led bench quashed the government’s decision to grant two extensions of tenure to ED director Mishra in 2021 and 2022 and termed these orders “illegal”, giving him time till July 31 to relinquish office. The bench held that Mishra could not have been granted the extension beyond November 2021 because they came after a court order that said no further extensions be given to him.

The extension of Mishra was challenged by a bundle of petitions, which banked on the September 2021 order of the top court. The petitioners included Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala, Jaya Thakur, and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra among others.

(Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 27 July 2023)

‘Discipline is hallmark of Armed Forces’: Supreme Court on former Army sepoy’s dismissal

The Supreme Court on Friday said that discipline is the implicit hallmark of the Indian Armed Forces and a non-negotiable condition of service, reported Bar and Bench.

A bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Rajesh Bindal said that gross indiscipline by those serving in the defence forces cannot be tolerated while upholding a February 2015 order passed by the Armed Forces Tribunal Lucknow Regional Bench, dismissing a mechanical transport driver from the service for overstaying leaves without a sufficient cause.

“Such gross indiscipline on the part of the appellant who was a member of the Armed Forces could not be countenanced. He remained out of line far too often for seeking condonation of his absence of leave, this time, for a prolonged period of 108 days which if accepted, would have sent a wrong signal to others in service. One must be mindful of the fact that discipline is the implicit hallmark of the Armed Forces and a non-negotiable condition of service,” the Court said.

In an appeal before the Supreme Court, the driver’s counsel argued that the punishment was grossly disproportionate to the offence, however, the court also found that driver, a former sepoy, who has been charged under Section 39b of the Army Act, appeared to be a habitual offender and that he had remained out of line for far too long by seeking condonation of his leave, the report added.

The driver during the hearing had not produced any document on record to justify his leaves and had only made a bald statement while making submissions before the Court of Inquiry in 1999.

The apex court also observed that the punishment pronounced was not graver than the one contemplated under the Army Act adding that the former sepoy did not deserve any leniency for his conduct. “The punishment of dismissal from service on conviction by Court Martial has been treated as a lesser punishment vis-à-vis the punishment of imprisonment for any period below 14 years … sub-section (4) of Section 120 clearly states that a SCM can pass any sentence as contemplated under the Act,” the bench said.

( Courtesy:- Hindustan Times, 29 July 2023)

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Legal News in this Weekly Legal Update are compiled by Team www.deepakmiglani.comThe News/Story has not been edited by team www.deepakmiglani.com

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